One of the few things that conservatives and liberals can agree on is that the opioid crisis is destroying American lives. Both illegal drugs like fentanyl and prescription medications including OxyContin can lead to serious addictions and preventable deaths… and you’d think that petty politics could be set aside when it comes to this grave issue.
Shockingly, however, a bombshell report from The Washington Free Beacon suggests that one prominent Democrat saw the opioid epidemic as a path to personal gain.
On Thursday, the news outlet shed light on a scandal which links Joe Manchin, the former Democratic governor of West Virginia, to millions of dollars meant to help the relatively poor state fight the war on drugs.
“A decade ago, West Virginia was set to receive millions in a prescription drug settlement from the maker of OxyContin. Then-governor Joe Manchin vowed the funding would help his state win the ‘drug war once and for all,” reported the Free Beacon.
After Purdue Pharma was accused of concealing the true addictive nature of OxyContin, the state was set to receive some $44 million in settlement funds — and the money was supposed to go to public health causes like fighting illegal drugs.
According to the Free Beacon, the Democratic governor quietly had other plans for $3 million of that settlement cash.
“Manchin was trying to secure a personal ‘Governor’s Helicopter’ with the funding, at a time when opioid deaths were climbing to the highest rate in the nation,” explained the Free Beacon.
And how in the world did the liberal governor try to justify splurging on the aircraft he wanted? His staff apparently stretched the definition of “good causes” to include playthings usually reserved for millionaires.
“We may want to put forth a good, detailed plan to satisfy those areas [of prevention, awareness, education] but we may be wanting to think out of the box a little bit,” the Charleston Daily Mail quoted Manchin’s cabinet secretary for military affairs and public safety as saying.
If there was any doubt that the Democratic governor wanted some of the anti-drug cash for his precious helicopter, a memo that circulated the West Virginia state capitol cleared it up.
Governor Manchin apparently listed “Governor’s Helicopter” as his personal request within that memo.
“Governor wants settlement funding dedicated to purchase a new helicopter,” the memo clearly declared. “This request needs not only to determine the ability to fund, but under what circumstances would a helicopter be allowed under the stipulations of the settlement. Call me if you have questions or this doesn’t make sense. $3 million.”
J. Norbert Federspiel, who ran the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, was one of the first people to point out the problem with this scheme.
“First off it cannot be the Governor’s Helicopter,” Federspiel wrote in a follow-up note. He pointed out that a police helicopter might be one thing, but the governor had clearly intended the proposal with his own use in mind.
“I don’t know what percentage of use the Governor could make of such a thing, but at very least I’m sure that [West Virginia State Police] would need to [use] it the majority of time in order to fly.”
“Beware of public perception and awareness,” he warned.
A governor seeing anti-drug funding as a way to add to his toy collection would be bad under any circumstances, but it gets worse. Manchin’s apparent tone-deafness is even more appalling considering the deep opioid problems ravishing his state.
“Opioid-related deaths nearly doubled during Manchin’s tenure as governor. In 2004, the year he was elected, there were 275 opioid overdoses in West Virginia. By 2010, the number jumped to 499,” reported the Free Beacon.
But hey, the governor needed his chopper.
Sadly, this habit of seeing public money as a personal cookie jar isn’t limited to one party. It happens any time politicians become enamored with power, and that’s exactly why term limits and counter-balances are so important in America.
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